By Vaishali Honawar | Edcation Week
The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing this month approved the Performance Assessment for California Teachers , or PACT, developed by a consortium of 30 teacher education programs in the state. Led by
Starting next school year, all teacher-candidates will have to pass a performance assessment before they can get their teaching credentials. A state law passed in 1998 requires such evaluations take place, but a lack of state funding delayed implementation.
Teacher programs, which can choose from either PACT or another, state-generated assessment called the California Teacher Performance Assessment, or CA-TPA, have, in many cases, already been piloting one of the two.
But because of its size and the number of teachers involved, as well as their diversity, “
CA-TPA, which the ETS helped develop, requires teachers to carry out specific tasks, including demonstrating subject-specific pedagogy, designing instruction, and assessing learning. Candidates carry out a teaching experience toward the end of the course in which they are expected to put in practice what they have learned.
PACT, on the other hand, occurs mainly during student-teaching, when candidates are expected to put together extensive, subject-specific portfolios, similar to those that teachers seeking national-board certification create, though on a smaller scale.
“In their [lesson] plans, they have to describe how to take the needs of special education students and English-language-learners into account,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford and one of the founders of the consortium.
Every day, candidates reflect and write about the day’s teaching experience, analyze what students learned, what they didn’t, and consider changes to help students who didn’t master the materials.
“It is a much more holistic assessment, a deeper assessment of teachers’ content knowledge and pedagogy, a deeper assessment of student learning and teacher response to student learning,” said Ms. Darling-Hammond. Signature assignments that focus on the candidates’ knowledge of curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, and student learning are also embedded through the coursework, although right now those are not considered during the credentialing decision, Stanford’s Mr. Pecheone said.
‘Way We Do Business’
A handful of studies have been conducted on the PACT pilots, and results so far have been positive.
Mr. Pecheone, who co-wrote one study, said teacher-candidates found the assessment requires a significant investment of time, especially because teacher programs in the state typically are just a year long. Still, he said, “what pleased us was that a significant number of students said that their engagement in doing the portfolio was a critical learning experience.”
So deep is the interest in PACT, Ms. Darling-Hammond said, colleges that piloted it have continued to participate for years, spending their own money to do so even in the absence of state funding.
Mr. Pearson said he believes most colleges are prepared for next year, when the assessments become mandatory. “Will everyone be prepared to do it? Yes and no, but they don’t have any choice,” he said. “Most people will accept the challenge because it is these kinds of adjustments that bring out the best in the profession.”